The number of teachers in the primary, secondary and college level is about nine lakh and they have been demonstrating in various ways to press home their long standing demands. Several groups of teachers were on demonstration in the month of December 2017 that extended up to the last part of January 2018. There lie arguments and counter arguments in favour and against the demands of the teachers. But the education specialists say that the demands of the teachers have been viewed by the state sporadically, not on the basis of holistic approach that has further increased their problems without giving solution even though the government has time to time increased the salary and benefits of teachers. This was done actually in response to their sudden demonstration and demands, not on the basis of well thought-out plan. Most importantly most of the ills of this largest sector in the country have been taken into political consideration that has further concentrated the problems.
In the previous tenure of the government it was mentioned in the ‘National Education Policy’ that the teachers of the country would see a different pay-scale that has not been implemented yet. Teachers know it well that the government usually does not give importance to them, so they have chosen the time before election to press home their demands. This notion has led them to come to the street before the national election to be held early next year. Several groups of teachers under different teacher organizational umbrella started demonstration in the month of December 2017 that hampered the annual examination, preparing results and distributing books for the New Year. Teachers realized their demands through demonstration before the elections of 1996, 2001 and 2006. Pre-election period is a sensitive time that helps realize their demands from the state is believed by them.
These are facts that about 26 thousand non-government primary schools have been nationalized in 2013 and the teachers’ salary has been doubled. The status of head teacher of primary school and the assistant teachers of secondary school have been upgraded. These undoubtedly prove good steps on the part of the government but it did in response to hasty needs and quick demands and sensing pressure from the teachers. As a result, it rather created conflict with other groups of teachers without bringing in solutions. One example can be cited here. The government was planning to upgrade the status of head teachers of government primary schools to tenth grade but the assistant teachers’ strike compelled the government not to do it now as it would create further gap between the assistant teachers and head teachers of government primary schools. It has led the head teachers believe that due to the assistant teachers’ strike they have been deprived of their due rights.
The teachers of attached Ebtetai madrasas (Dakhil, Alim, Fazil and Qamil madrasa attached) have been on strike also for nationalization. They have been demonstrating to equalize their pay-scale like the teachers of government primary schools. The country now sees 9 thousand 335 Ebtedai madrasa and the number of teachers of these madrasas is about 37000. The teachers of Attached Ebtedai Teachers’ Foundation were on strike since 26 December 2017. They have been sent home after giving a promise after their strike turned into ‘fast unto death’. 5479 Ebtedai madrasa teachers have been urging and requesting the state for the last 33 years. Some of them receive government grants which are also irregular. The government has nationalized primary education that calls for appreciation. But the Ebtedai madrasas are giving the same level of education to the children but without any state salary and this is a disparity.
It is learnt that in 1984 separate madrasa registration started under madrasa education board under 78 Ordinance. Since then Ebtedai madrasa teachers have been teaching just like the teachers of primary school but they don’t get any grant or salary from the state. The students of these madrasas have been participating in the PSC examinations and all other activities of the government without enjoying state facilities, so the teachers of this level have raised questions of the dual policy of the state.
The non-MPO secondary educational institutions in the country are 5242 and the staff and teachers of these institutions are 75,000 to 80,000. They are recognized but not under MPO who had been on strike before the Press Club since 26 December 2017. They say they have been working as teachers after fulfilling all the rules. They also went on strike fast unto death and finally on 5 January 2018 the personal secretaries of the Prime Minister and Education Secretary broke their strike promising them that the PM had decided to bring all the non-MPO institutions under MPO procedure. It also seems a separate step.
In 2010, 1624 institutions were brought under MPO. Without following any policy and giving political consideration institutions have been brought under MPO that has caused serious pressure on the state revenue. From secondary to college level 95 percent educational institutions are run in the private sector. Non-government schools, college, madrasa and technical educational institutions are 37 thousand. When 1624 institutions were brought under MPO, the MPs concerned were not satisfied as the way it was done. The Education Minister, however, had to face their wrath. The non-MPO teachers have been on strike for pressing home their demands. Now the number of MPO educational institutions is 27810. The number of teachers and staff are 496,362. The state spends about 942 crore taka per month for MPO purpose. Beyond this, non-MPO institutions are 5242. Beyond the recognition, another two thousand institutions exist.
The government secondary schools also don’t go without demands. Ten thousand teachers are supposed to work in 336 government secondary schools, actually eight thousand teachers work there. Five hundred posts of head teachers also lie vacant in these schools. The leaders of these institutions have threatened to go on strike if their demands are not fulfilled. Most of the non-government institutions are not housed in good building, no computer lab and science lab exits. There is no arrangement for washroom for girls. Moreover, teacher employment has not been going on for long that has created another problem. Quality teacher and teaching is a far cry in these institutions. The initiative of the government to recruit teachers in non-government schools and colleges through NTRC test has gone to dogs because of question leakage and selling fake certificates.
College teachers are also divided on the issue of cadre and non-cadre debate. There are 335 government colleges in the country. The government has decided to nationalize at least one college in each upazilla and accordingly 283 colleges have been included in the list of nationalization. But it is alleged that many colleges have been included in the list of nationalization without fulfilling the criteria. The policies and things got priority to get enlisted for nationalization that has created problems. In 26 and 27 November 2017 the cadre teachers of government colleges were on strike and they are preparing to do something more in the days to come to put pressure on the government not to declare the nationalized teachers as ‘cadre’ teachers. The teachers of the would-be nationalized colleges also threat that they must be declared cadre. Thus conflict continues.
As per DSHE (Directorate of Secondary and Higher Education) if all the recognized educational institutions of the country are brought under MPO, it will require more 150 crore taka. From the state treasury 942 crore is spent monthly for MPO. If another seven thousand intuitions are brought under MPO more money will be needed and it’s a matter of serious concern whether our budget and state revenue can accommodate it. Education ministry says all the institutions may not be eligible to get MPO after monitoring and evaluation. Actually we need to learn exactly how many primary, secondary, higher secondary and higher educational institutions are needed in the country according to population. How many of them exist in reality? If we need to establish any more, then the decisions should be made whether we need to establish them in the private sector or in the government or jointly. Next point, how the financing will be managed for the teachers and staff of these institutions. We must remember that the teachers cannot teach keeping their stomach empty. It is recommended that a powerful education commission needs to be formed to determine the number of existing educational institutions and whether we need to establish more, and if so, how.
The writer works for BRAC